### Abstract

Radial velocity (RV) observations of an exoplanet system giving a value of M_{T} sin(i) condition (i.e., give information about) not only the planet's true mass M_{T} but also the value of sin(i) for that system (where i is the orbital inclination angle). Thus, the value of sin(i) for a system with any particular observed value of M_{T} sin(i) cannot be assumed to be drawn randomly from a distribution corresponding to an isotropic i distribution, i.e., the presumptive prior distribution. Rather, the posterior distribution from which it is drawn depends on the intrinsic distribution of M_{T} for the exoplanet population being studied. We give a simple Bayesian derivation of this relationship and apply it to several "toy models" for the intrinsic distribution of M_{T} , on which we have significant information from available RV data in some mass ranges but little or none in others. The results show that the effect can be an important one. For example, even for simple power-law distributions of M_{T} , the median value of sin(i) in an observed RV sample can vary between 0.860 and 0.023 (as compared to the 0.866 value for an isotropic i distribution) for indices of the power law in the range between -2 and +1, respectively. Over the same range of indices, the 95% confidence interval on M_{T} varies from 1.0001-2.405 (α = -2) to 1.13-94.34 (α = +2) times larger than M_{T} sin(i) due to sin(i) uncertainty alone. More complex, but still simple and plausible, distributions of M_{T} yield more complicated and somewhat unintuitive posterior sin(i) distributions. In particular, if the M_{T} distribution contains any characteristic mass scale M_{c} , the posterior sin(i) distribution will depend on the ratio of M_{T} sin(i) to M_{c} , often in a non-trivial way. Our qualitative conclusion is that RV studies of exoplanets, both individual objects and statistical samples, should regard the sin(i) factor as more than a "numerical constant of order unity" with simple and well-understood statistical properties. We argue that reports of M_{T} sin(i) determinations should be accompanied by a statement of the corresponding confidence bounds on M_{T} at, say, the 95% level based on an explicitly stated assumed form of the true M_{T} distribution in order to reflect more accurately the mass uncertainties associated with RV studies.

Original language | English (US) |
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Article number | 26 |

Journal | Astrophysical Journal |

Volume | 739 |

Issue number | 1 |

DOIs | |

State | Published - Sep 20 2011 |

### All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science

### Keywords

- methods: statistical
- planetary systems
- techniques: radial velocities